Hamilton Fastest on Friday in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton has the edge heading into the sessions that count later on in the Abu Dhabi weekend after putting together solid laps in both Friday Practices that were enough to top the time-sheets.

The gap to Rosberg was only 0.079s, which isn’t exactly a chasm, but the psychological edge Hamilton gains for edging out his teammate will bode well in the fight for pole position in Qualifying tomorrow.

Sebastian Vettel managed 3rd for Ferrari with a 1:41:130, a time that was only two-tenths away from Rosberg’s lap for 2nd. Ferrari’s pace so far in Abu Dhabi has been much stronger post-sunset as the track temperatures cooled by as much as 15 Degrees Celsius  The German Ferrari driver’s session was ruined in the closing stages though after yet another gearbox failure caused him to pull off on the circuit. He will  not receive a grid penalty for a gearbox change but the incident is emblematic of Ferrari’s entire season in that they’ve shown flashes of pace that hint at a challenge to Mercedes just for issues to afflict their progress.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were barely separable, the Dutchman finished FP2 in 4th, 0.001s faster than Daniel Ricciardo, which is probably the width of an atom.  After the session, Verstappen mulled over the prospect of fighting Mercedes and said,

“There are a lot of factors that will play into that but I think the most important thing for us is to be as close as we can in qualifying to at least race them. We have to wait and see, I think they are very strong and in qualifying they turn up their engines as well.”

– Max Verstappen

Raikkonen rounded out the top six in Abu Dhabi Practice with a lap that was just over three-tenths down on his teammate, who appears to have the edge in this early stage of the weekend. The rest of the top ten was made up by Force India and Williams, who look too close in terms of performance for Williams to reclaim 4th in the Constructor’s, barring a disastrous race for Hulkenberg or Perez.

Knocking on door of the top ten were the McLaren drivers who are aiming for a double points finish this weekend. Alonso led Button by four-tenths and both appear to be in contention with the result their targeting this weekend. The Haas duo of Gutierrez and Grosjean finished FP2 in 13th and 14th, the Mexican racing possibly his final weekend in Formula One, his last chance to score points for Haas looking like a tall order.

Jolyon Palmer will be hoping his 15th reflects his true pace with an advantage of eight-tenths over Kevin Magnussen’s Renault. The Brit has his race-seat with Renault secured for 2017 but will be hoping he can get the RS19 out of Q1 for Qualifying.

Toro Rosso had a difficult session made up of tyre failures and found themselves locking out the back row.

The session revealed that it’s going to be a very close battle for the win on Sunday between the Mercedes drivers. Vettel’s pace warrants recognition, but we’ve been here before too many times to expect anything other than Red Bull finding some pace overnight and potentially pouring the pressure onto Rosberg.